This week the Australian government announced that five dual citizens were stripped of their Australian citizenship after it was discovered they had taken part in the Islamic State collective in Iraq and Syria. To date, six Australians have been stripped of their citizenship for taking part in the Islamic State’s activities. The law was changed in 2015 to allow for such punishment. Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton stated that, “I can confirm that five more individuals have ceased to be Australian citizens because of their involvement with Islamic State offshore.” The updated Australian Citizenship Act states under section 35, if a dual citizen conducts themselves in a manner contrary to their allegiance to the nation, their Australian citizenship is automatically revoked; this holds especially true should they engage in terrorism-related activities.
Minister Dutton would not give specifics to the identities of the five people, it was not stated when they had traveled to the Middle East or when they had their Australian citizenship revoked. According to the Australia Broadcasting Corp., they were all in their mid-twenties and thirties; they may not be informed of the loss of their citizenship, but Australian Intelligence services started an investigation on them in 2017. Minister Dutton stated that, “We’ve arrived at a position now where it’s clear through their own conduct these people have renounced their Australian citizenship. They don’t deserve to be Australian citizens, and in our judgment, they would pose a great threat if they were to return to Australia.”
The other individual to lose their citizenship under Australia’s new law was Khaled Sharrouf, a 36-year-old convicted terrorist born in Sydney. Sharrouf left Australia in 2013 using his brother’s passport. His own passport was terminated after being convicted as a member of a thwarted plot to carry out a terrorist attack. His Australian citizenship was revoked in January 2017; now he only has Lebanese citizenship. In 2014 Sharrouf posted a picture on social media of his son, a mere child, holding up a Syrian soldier’s severed head as a trophy; a shocking gesture considering the Islamic State had only just begun its rise to power in the Middle East. Former Secretary of State John Kerry said the photograph was “one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed.” Minister Dutton closed by saying that, “It is opposed to Australia, its people and its democratic rights and privileges. The government is determined to deal with foreign terrorist fighters as far from our shores as possible.”
Featured image: Attorney-General for Australia George Brandis, left, Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, center, and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, right foreground, at the announcement of a new home affairs portfolio. | Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons